“I’m here in Kladno and my only and main goal is to recover, get back to form as soon as possible, to get healthy and help our team to reach the playoffs and try to advance to the [top Czech] league,” he said in February.
Jagr’s team had been relegated from the Czech Extraliga to the WSM Liga (First League) in 2014. With Jagr back, the expectation was that Kladno could thrive in the playoffs and then make a strong bid to return to the Czech Republic’s top-tier hockey league through its relegation round.
One problem: They might have to do it without Jagr, if they make it at all.
The 46-year-old star is struggling to play the minimum amount of games required to qualify for participation in the Czech Extraliga qualification round, because of a ligament injury in his right knee that limited him to one goal in 22 games with Calgary this season.
The regulation round participation quota exists to ensure that last-second “ringers” aren’t added to teams.
According to Tomáš Pokorný of Blesk.cz, Jagr needs a combination of 15 games between the regular season and the playoffs for Kladno to be able to participate in the qualification round, which is a tournament between the two best First League teams and the two worst Extraliga teams. He’s played nine games thus far.
It’s gotten so bad that Kladno actually played him for one shift in a recent playoff game just so Jagr would be closer to hitting the participation quota. He skated for seven seconds after the opening faceoff, before returning to the locker room and ending his night.
There was speculation Kladno might play him for one shift again in the fifth game of their series against Prostejov on Tuesday, but Jagr was a scratch after having practiced that morning. He watched the game from a VIP box with his girlfriend.
Kladno coach Pavel Patera told Blesk.ca that Jagr pulled himself from the game and told him, “you never know what will happen, and maybe we will need to use all the players we can and I don’t want to take one place in vain.”
Kladno is up 3-2 in its seven-game series with Prostejov, with the next game on Thursday, so Jagr’s path to hitting that games-played quota is a complicated one. Let’s say they win the series, 4-2 – Jagr would need to play in that final win, and then hope Kladno loses at least one game in the next round so he could play at five more to hit the quota.
But if there’s anything we know about Jagr, it’s that the man likes to have options. Upon leaving the NHL, he also signed a contract with Trinec of the Czech Extraliga, and was listed on their roster before the postseason cutoff date. So if Kladno doesn’t win this round or the next round to reach the qualification tournament, Jagr could compete in the Czech Extraliga playoffs with Trinec, which begin next week – if he’s healthy. The rub is that once he plays for Trinec, he could no longer play for Kladno if it reached the relegation round.
As we said when he left the NHL, this could be the end for one of hockey’s most legendary players.